Nigel Lythgoe

Active - 1980 - 2019  |   Born - Jul 9, 1949 in Wirral, England  |   Genres - Dance, Comedy, Musical, Music, Fantasy

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Biography by Nathan Southern

One of the preeminent godfathers of early 21st century reality television, producer Nigel Lythgoe earned a reputation for his blunt and brutal but well-meaning forthrightness about the cult of celebrity (and the lust for celebrity) among average Middle Americans, as well as his laudable willingness to disillusion those with big-star dreams who lacked the ability to back them up. Briton Lythgoe began his career as talent, performing on television with the BBC dance ensemble Young Generation in England (on such programs as The Rolf Harris Show); he subsequently moved into behind-the-scenes work, initially as a choreographer on innumerable U.K.-based music series. Lythgoe moved to ATV in the '70s, however, and at that point shifted gears once again, segueing into production and climbing his way up the ladder from The Muppet Show to The Morecambe and Wise Show. About 10 years after a brief stint as a choreographer on a Hollywood feature in 1980 (the kitschy Menahem Golan-produced musical The Apple), Lythgoe began turning out reality series en masse in an executive producer capacity, with a phenomenal degree of success. These included: You Bet! (1989), Fox's American Idol, Popstars, So You Think You Can Dance, and The Next Great American Band.

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  • Aspired to be a professional dancer since childhood, much to the chagrin of his dockworker father.
  • At 21, he served as a choreographer for and performed as a dancer with the BBC's Young Generation dance troupe.
  • Worked as a choreographer for numerous shows, including The Muppet Show.
  • Earned the nickname "Nasty Nigel" for being a tough audition judge on the Brit TV show Popstars.
  • Best known for his work as executive producer on a variety of talent-based reality shows, including American Idol (and its UK predecessor, Pop Idol) and So You Think You Can Dance (on which he also serves as judge).
  • Co-founded the Dizzy Feet Foundation in 2009.
  • Founded Nigel Lythgoe Productions, a joint venture with 19 Entertainment, in September 2011.
  • Appointed an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II in her 2015 Birthday Honours.